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Ted Baker Employees Have Launched A Petition To End A "Culture Of Forced Hugging" At The Retailer

Staff at the high-end British clothing company allege a pattern of workplace misconduct and harassment by CEO Ray Kelvin.

Posted on December 2, 2018, at 9:34 p.m. ET

Jonathan Brady / AP, Astrid Stawiarz / Via Getty Images

A petition started by employees of Ted Baker alleges that the company has a culture of "forced hugging" that has allowed "harassment to go unchallenged."

The petition, published on the employee campaign platform Organise, has been signed by over 200 staff members of the high-end British clothing retailer, and is now open to the public to sign. It claims that the company's CEO, Ray Kelvin, regularly "tries to massage people around the office, insists on long hugs with staff members, touches them inappropriately and openly asks his staff for sex."

Complaints against Kelvin range from invitations to star in porn movies with him to kissing the back of employees' ears, according to the document.

"The owner regularly makes sexual innuendos at staff, he stroke people’s necks, he took off his shirt on one occasion and talked about his sex life," the petition states. "So many people have left the business due to harassment, whether that be verbal, physical or sexual."

It also claims that the company's human resources department has ignored harassment complaints, and calls for the company to set up a way to report incidents to an "independent, external body."

"Harassment at Ted Baker is well documented but wilfully ignored by those in charge," the petition says. It goes on to claim that the company's human resources department dismissed complaints about Kelvin by saying "that's just what he's like."

"Pursuing the issue through the 'proper' channels i.e. Human Resources, is hopelessly ineffective," the petition states. "They don't act on the reports. It's time to break the silence."

BuzzFeed News reached out to Ted Baker for a response to the petition but did not immediately receive a response.

In a statement sent to other media outlets, including the BBC and the Guardian, the company acknowledged that Kelvin often greets people "with a hug, be it a shareholder, investor, supplier, partner, customer or colleague."

Hugs "have become part of Ted Baker’s culture, but are absolutely not insisted upon," the statement said.

The company said that it would "ensure a thorough independent investigation" into the accusations made in the petition, adding that the alleged behavior is "entirely at odds with the values of our business and those of our CEO".

Kelvin, 62, founded Ted Baker in Glasgow in 1988, naming the company after one of his alter egos. The retailer has since expanded and Kelvin now has a reported net worth of more than $650 million. He is known to avoid publicity, typically posing for photos with an object obscuring his face.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.